Tag Archives: Silkies

Overcrowding

I went out at bedtime to close everyone up, which means picking up the cardboard boxes that the wild chicks and the moms they’re still attached to have retired into, and carrying them into the safe box in the greenhouse for the night.  There’s a lineup of three boxes.

One was empty.

Oh, great.  Foxy and her set have found someplace to sleep outside.  I put the other two boxes away, did a quick low crawl to look around the base of the brush piles where they like to rest (wow, they’ve got a proper labyrinth in there), and went for a flashlight and headlamp to mount a search.  On the way back, I thought I’d better double check the box contents to make sure I knew exactly who I was looking for.

Foxy and Feisty and their seven chicks between them were all jammed into one box!  The smallest box.  That box does seem to be preferred.  I could just imagine the growling. Yeah, well I want this box too.  I called dibs.  I’m not leaving.  Fine!  I’m not leaving either.

As long as they’re happy.   In their 140 square inches of real estate.  Mental note:  they will not be happy in the morning – must not delay letting them out.

They weren’t:  Nine birds in a 10x 14 box , what were they thinking?Ursa has a mom-hopper.  Ursa’s got attitude. First the yellow one.Then the black ones – corner warming.

An experiment in chick freedom

Ursa Minor was protesting the confines of the chickery, so I tried something.  I let all the moms and chicks loose.  This is not rain day, these are the tiny chicks in their first few days of life, that are typically in chickeries in the greenhouse (warm and dry), before they go out to chickeries on grass for a few days, before they run wild with their moms (a staged transition to free-range).So I propped up the chickeries so they could leave, but still get back in their familiar box.  Clever stayed in for hours. Ursa shot out and within a minute, was demonstrating hole digging in the tomatoes. Hers are the smallest chicks too.  The others have an edge by a couple days or at least some hours.  But she’s a real go-getter.No time to lose!  I’ve done this before.  Can’t waste a minute with early chickhood education!Thinking about it. Domino’s thinking harder about it.     Oh!  Big moves!  This is the cost of chickens on the loose.  The danger to low hanging fruit.  It’s negligible.I think I see a tomato right now.

Chick party in the greenhouse

Rain day!

It did not start well.  The forecast, usually accurate to the hour, was predicting rain starting at 9pm tonight.  At 6am, pat. pat pat. patpatpatpatpat! 

I leapt up.  I needed to give the pigs access to their house.  Yesterday I’d moved their house (thank god!), but I hadn’t cut out the path to reroute the electric fence around it.  Really crappy work that I planned to do today before the rain (plenty of time!), as I was so tired and sore yesterday.  Instead, in the dark before dawn, in the rain, while the pigs watched me impatiently, grunting.  Hey.  It’s raining.  ME:  You’re waterproof, you tyrants.

I got the brush cut out, and the fence patched around it, and they grunted right in.  They just prefer to be in their house in the rain.   I checked the forecast.  It had changed, imagine that.  Yes, it is indeed raining right now.  And it’s now predicted to rain all day.  That means the pigs will spend all day in their house.

Amazingly, I enticed Galahad to go back into the greenhouse.  I figured he’d prefer that, but didn’t think it would work.  I’ve never asked him to go back into the greenhouse during the day.   And I released all the moms and their chicks inside the greenhouse! That’s Foxy, Fiesty, and  Chocolate at large, plus Ursa, Clever and (unnamed) in their chickeries.The chicks wouldn’t have any problems in the rain, but it would be hard on the hens, as soon as the chicks try to use Mom for an umbrella.  Silkies aren’t even water resistant.They were over the moon!  This was the most exciting thing ever, apparently.  Galahad etc weren’t too demonstrative, but content to be inside.  We live here, what’s the big deal?  The chicks and moms acted like they just got heli-dropped into Disneyland.  The cheeping!  The clucking!  The scampering! Oh the places you’ll scratch!  Oh the things you’ll peck!An hour later and they were still centralized on just the first fraction of the greenhouse.

It turned out to be a grey day more than a rain day, and I let Galahad out again for most of the day.  It started coming down again early evening.   The chicks were all late going to bed:)  Best day ever!

new chicks

Clever’s chicks made it!  (sort of).  I didn’t expect them to because the eggs were poopy, and that can choke off the exchange of air and humidity to the developing chick.  She rolled one egg away from her a week ago, and it was rotten.  I should have known she knew her other two were alive.

However, one died after hatching.  This is quite rare, for a chick to die after hatching under a mom, and after being alive long enough to dry out and fluff up.   The chick death rate when you’ve got mother hens is very low.  No medicated feed necessary – coccidosis and pasted bum are non-issues (very thankfully).  But it happens. Sad.  She only has one chick now, and that’s not fair, because she was an excellent sitter and I’m sure will be a great mom.  It’s a very noisy chick.  A leghorn, I think.  So they came out of the broodery into a greenhouse chickery (cue dirt bath), and Apples went in (!).  She settled right in, sitting on her eggs.

Then I lifted the lid to feed the other two broodies, and got a big surprise!Hm.  She’s got a dirty butt.

Three quiet little chicks!  Two dominoes!  I was hoping for more Copper Marans.  These will be Inky and Velvet duplicates.  And one leghorn cross. So cute.Did you say something about my butt?

Speaking of Copper Marans, Cleopatra, bio-mom of all the black chicks this year, is pulling a new stunt.  She jumps into Silkieland to lay an egg in their coop.  Cuckoo, cuckoo!  Then she acts like she has no idea how to get out again.  Every day.

OMG I can’t get out!
Oh, right.
Perchable moment

That’s Flash just to the left of the stick on the coop- a rare capture.  S/He’s a little brown keet (a “pearl”), but his first one or two flight feathers are white, so when she extends her wings, or hasn’t folded them back in completely, you see the flash of white.  It’s distinctive.   You can see the white line in this picture.

Foxy and Feisty

Feisty’s a very pretty chicken.  We had a good photo shoot before dusk:If you catch them at the right angle, which isn’t hard to do,  Silkie hens look like they have no eyes at all.

Foxy is irritable.  Her chicks are at that stage where they ignore her until they need her, don’t pay attention, and want to stay up too late. I’ve still no idea how many days/weeks it takes for them to hit these chicken stages of development, like pants, reluctance to go to bed, independence, rooster hero worship, exploration/getting in trouble, and modeling on older chicks, but I recognize the stages in every set of chicks.  They all go through them.

So Foxy is at the grumpy harassed mother stage.  The hens have corresponding stages of development – different degrees of patience and concern and energy.  It evolves from Take me! I will die before you get them! to Enh, I don’t even know them.  Mmm, no, don’t think I’ve ever seen them before.  And it’s mutual.  Although chickens can remain bonded with their “friends” or siblings for life, the attachment to their mother seems to completely vanish in time, which is interesting.

I’ve left one chickery out and propped open as Foxy is conservative and likes to return to the chickery as home base.  She’s in it, squalling for her chicks to come the F to bed.  They’re ignoring her, scrambling in the brush pile.   We’re wild adventure chicks!  They keep up a steady stream of consciousness peeping.  The world is just so interesting.

Eventually she went marching out after them.  If you kids don’t come to bed RIGHT NOW…

Back to Feisty:

I’m asleep… no I’m not!  I’m asleeeep… (that looks so cozy)I’m awake!

It was just a pre-bedtime nap.  She shook them all out and went for a last foraging walk before conveniently ending up in a box tonight.  Found a food dish!

 

Chick freedom day

Feisty and her chicks liberated themselves today.  They usually let me know when they’re ready for the big world by starting to leak out.  Thing is, Foxy’s chicks are days older, and they weren’t the ones to start getting out.Once Feisty was out and about though, Foxy got excited.One has such beautiful wings. Who, me?

I helped them out by lifting up the side of the chickery, and they started leaking out.  One.  Two. Threeand four. No, I’m back in.All out.  First day totally at large is a big day.  They drew some onlookers too.

Hens and their chicks

Daisy’s chicks have the greatest outfits right now.  Worthy of Björk.   Silver is still specialCotton’s chicks are little screamers.  Always yelling, no apparent reason.   They’re moved up to the big Silkie house with the grownup hens.Making the rounds of the dish, literally.

Feisty’s chicks are the newest.Foxy’s four:And Galahad’s chicks! Monopolizing a feed dish.

A fleet of broody Silkies

Everyone is outside today!  First day out for Foxy and her full-size chicks.  She’s overdue for it, but it’s been rainy.  Cotton and Daisy know all about out, but have also been in for a bit due to weather.

Look who’s sniffin’ around – the Colonel

Ten to one one of these hens (Cotton) is going to fly out and go big world today.  And tonight, one set of them has to go to the big house – move in with the other hens in Silkieland.  That means the hens will all scrap to sort out their order again, but the chicks will like that a lot.

The greenhouse looks a little different with the vacancies!  Can actually walk through it again, now all the chickeries are outside.  Inside, there are now only broody hens parked:  an astonishing five of them.  Outside, Silkieland is a little sparse, with all these girls in setting on eggs.  The most recent two were settled in a nest box together, apparently broody, but without eggs.  I gave them the interference test (Touch them.  Do they puff up, stick up their tails, and screech-growl?)

Grrrr! Yes, we’re broody!

They’re broody.  I thought, they went broody together, I can put them in a box together.  They’ll be like sisters, and hatch their eggs together, and the chicks will grow up together– won’t that be cute?

No, not cute.  I prepared a box (the very well used Apples box that has done a lot of time by now), and settled the two of them into it, giving them each a few eggs.  I came back in a few minutes, and both of them were in there in full fury, puffed up, heads down, beak to beak, snarling at each other.  One had promptly stolen all the eggs and had them under her, and the other wanted to be on them and was trying to bulldoze in.  Ok then, individual boxes.  And Ursa Minor also went broody again at the same time.  The little star.  I can just plunk her in a box, middle of the day, she doesn’t skip a beat. Long as there’s some eggs where I’m going. 

Some hens need to be coddled or they’ll break up.  I had one Brahma broody in the coop  (a Brahma!  So exciting!), and tried three times to move her into a broody box (an XL one), and she wasn’t having it.  In the morning, she’d be off her eggs and freakin’ out.  Finally I tried to make a better nest in the coop, a raised dais of hay, and just that broke her up for good.  Touchy.  I’m a little Brahma chick!  I think there’s only one, but I can tell it’s a Brahma.  The Brahma behaviour, and the feathered feet, are emerging.  Adorable!  I like the big pillowy Brahmas.

The other two hens in the covered wagons are due soon.  Fiesty may be hatching now.  Her head was up and she didn’t try to bite a piece out of me this morning.  She’s a terror.

She doesn’t peck.  She’s gone beyond that.  She pinches – grabs a piece and pulls, and she recently integrated a twist.  I bet she was Miss Popularity in the chicken schoolyard.  She’s the only hen to have drawn blood from me, and she has a knack for hitting the skin between thumb and forefinger or on my wrist.  She snake strikes from the dark recesses of the broody kennel when I reach in with food or water (I squawk.  I’ve been tempted to throw it at her).  Every morning, I get thanked for breakfast like this . Until today, so I suspect something is different.  Other than the savage daily attacks, she’s a good sitter.  I like it when they settle on their eggs and stay, without too much rummaging around, moving them around – that increases the chances that they lose one.

Daisy’s chicks are in scruffling stage- feathers sticking out in all directions

If hens were dwarves:  Fiesty, Cranky, Dopey, Whiny, Lazy, Screechy, and Fluffy

Three new chicks

Foxy has managed to hatch 3 of 4 chicks.  She somehow broke all her first eggs, and I gave her a second batch, so she has been setting longer than usual.

She’s used her confinement productively to start regrowing her moulted feathers.One. Two. Three! They’re full size eggs and chicks, looks like two Ameracauna crosses and a Chanticleer.Seems like the danger zone.

Foxy is notably the least good-looking of all the Silkie hens, always grubby and making no effort at all.  Just a slovenly chicken.  It’s funny how different they are.  Most times setting hens will try to shit away from their eggs, so they aren’t sitting in it for days on it.  Makes sense, right?  At least they direct it all in one pile not right under them, and at best they get up and go outside the box to relieve themselves.  Not this one.  Nope.

But she was determinedly broody, so I let her work, even though I had to muck her out in a way I usually don’t.

Next door, Daisy is a determined digger.  She must have legs of steel.  She goes all day, preferring the greenhouse  where she can dig deep holes to the outdoor grass.  She kicks dirt and straw against the fence with a thump, thump.  Then she fills in the last hole digging a new one next to it, all the while clucking enthusiastically, like what could be better that this!  The chicks are always spattered with dirt.  I assume they’ll inherit quite the work ethic.  At least two weeks old now,  these Silkie babies are not substantially larger than the day-olds next door, although they are clearly more developed, with the tail “spray”, wing tip feathers, and longer legs.

Itty bitty feather slippers

The little Silkie chicks are ridiculously cute.  There’s five of them; these two and Daisy has three, including the late silver arrival (who’s doing very well).  It’s nice to have Silkie chicks under Silkie moms;  I got used to seeing them with the fast-growing, out-sized “regular” babies.  The moms are so doting, and fierce!The five are all still tiny fuzzballs, even ten days old, and you can see their feathered feet.  I can already tell that this little brown one comes from the “extravagantly feathered feet” stock.  Daisy’s been outside, but we had a big rain day (another one!) and they went back under cover.  Just like yesterday, a thunderstorm rolled over suddenly and torrentially.  SO loud in the greenhouse. I got wings!This silver one is so special.